Fyodor Dus-Chotimirsky. Memories, part 5
Read part 4 here.
HAMBURG 1910 INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENT
18 players took part in the Hamburg international tournament, including Schlechter, Marshall, Tarrasch, Spielmann, Teichmann and those who represented Russia at the time - Alekhine, Nimzowitsch, Salwe, Tartakower and me.
Interestingly enough, the German champion Tarrasch protested vehemently against inviting Alekhine and Yates, because they supposedly weren't strong enough for such a serious tournament. But in the final standings, Alekhine finished ahead of Tarrasch, and Yates won only one game - but against Tarrasch!
Here are some of my games from this tournament.
At the time, Albin Countergambit was very popular in the tournament practice (1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4); it demanded very precise and careful playing from White.
The sharp-playing masters such as Marshall, Mieses, Tartakower and others would often use this opening as Black, hoping to confuse the opponent, which, by the way, is possible from the very beginning: 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe4 d4 4. e3? Bb4+ 5. Bd2 dxe3! 6. Bxb4? exf2+ 7. Ke2 fxg1=N+!
Before this game against Marshall, I've never played the Albin Countergambit, either with White or with Black.
I only knew that Chigorin's view of this opening was quite skeptical. Chigorin proved his views to be correct on practice as well - he defeated the opening's inventor, Albin, at Nurnberg 1896. Chigorin began the game with 1. d4, something he would play on very rare occasions because he preferred open games. Chigorin wanted to try a system with Bishop's flank development against Albin.
So I wasn't afraid of the Albin Countergambit against Marshall because I believed that Chigorin was right.
After this game, the Albin Countergambit fell out of fashion for many years.
There's a lot written about Alexander Alexandrovich Alekhine. Everybody seems to agree that he was a true genius; those who say that he reached the heights he did because of many years of hard work are also right - chess was the meaning of his life!
This combination of genius and hard work created Alekhine as he was. At his peak, he dethroned Capablanca and became the world champion.
Soviet chess players value Alekhine highly as an analyst, study Alekhine's art by his games, critically appraising Alekhine's legacy to improve and enrich their playing even further.
Which personal qualities make Alekhine stand out among his contemporaries - Lasker, Capablanca and world's other leading chess players?
The all-consuming love for the game, phenomenal memory, the ability to control one's awareness and concentrate, the unshakable will to win - Alekhine had all those qualities, but other great chess players had them too.
Also, these qualities in and of themselves do not guarantee any kind of chess talent - they only accompany the existing talent.
If we analyze Alekhine's legacy from this point of view, we inevitably come to the conclusion that Alekhine's primary source of greatness was his chess fantasy! Nobody was equal to him in this regard! He was unrivaled!
Alekhine's inquisitive, strong fantasy allowed him to see things on the board that were overlooked by all others.
Alekhine's combinational vision gave him obvious advantage in the chess struggle. Alekhine's contemporaries saw only a ripe combination on the board, like they see a ripe apple on the branch. Alekhine saw much further: he was able to create circumstances for combinations. A concrete positional evaluation, preparational work, deep maneuvering organically fit into Alekhine's creative plans. Alekhine's combinations began before his opponents could see them, and brought him many victories. A beautiful combination most often begins with a piece or pawn sacrifice, but first moves of Alekhine's combinations would often seem quiet and innocuous. The fireworks would start later, very suddenly for the audience!
Even in simple positions, seemingly devoid of any sharp continuations, Alekhine could find some combinational resources to attack. Such powerful fantasy he had!
The complexity of combinational plans, the sharpness of position never confused Alekhine: it was his element.
Subtle and unerring combinational calculations and flawless technique never betrayed Alekhine.
Alekhine's chess understanding is similar to creative views of his great predecessor, M.I. Chigorin.
Alekhine also didn't follow any chess canons slavishly, he never succumbed to any chess dogma proclaiming "universal" principles of chess struggle. Alekhine always went his own way, analyzing and evaluating each concrete position and searching for unlimited combinational opportunities.
Alekhine never walked along the tried and true roads, he sought and built new ways to the heights of chess mastery.
Here's an interesting anecdote that shows the great Russian chess player's combinational vision.
Once in 1915, in a St. Petersburg Reiter Cafe, Alekhine played against Hofmeister, giving him a piece odds. Alekhine got a difficult position and thought long on his next move. The opponent offered him to resign, because resistance was futile: "I have a material advantage - two extra Knights!" Alekhine said nothing. Soon, he offered Hofmeister to place a third Knight on the board. Hofmeister gave in to the temptation and put the third Knight down. After that, Alekhine gave his opponent a mate in six. Without this third Knight, there was no mate!
I take great pride in the fact that I was Alekhine's first serious chess tutor and thus made a contribution to development of his great talent.
I've played Alekhine many times, but of all those interesting games, only two remained in recorded form; here's one of them.
During my stay in Hamburg, Robinet (spelling?), the chess club chairman, offered to play a casual game to me. Interestingly, six months before, I managed to win in exactly the same way against one St. Petersburg chess players (giving him a1-Rook odds).